Monday, June 18, 2007
A Near Miracle
The Most Obnoxious Detroit Tigers Fan you could EVER have the displeasure to sit next to had finally SHUT UP!! For 8 Plus innings tonight this Jerk had taunted each and every one of us in Section 320. The more he drank--the worse he became. But, after Felipe Lopez singled in the 8th run in the bottom of the 9th for Our Washington Nationals and Ryan Zimmerman had immediately followed with a lacing liner to right--not a sole in attendance tonight at RFK Stadium did not believe Washington was going to come all the way back, from a 9-1 deficit, to win.
Three runs were already in, FLop on second, "Z" on first, there were ZERO OUTS and Dimitri Young was stepping to the plate. What was left of 22,562 were mostly all standing on their feet. Nats Faithful making a ton of noise. The Sea of Bobbing Heads along the third baseline stands had returned. The Ballpark was in a FRENZY. The Jerk-- now slumping in his seat--a drunken stupor on his face. The Tide had turned. But, unlike this man's actions earlier--in Section 320, we showed far more class than he ever gave us. We said nothing back to him. It was more satisfying to see him wallow in his own sorrow. After three hours of acting The FOOL, this man might have realized, we were pretty decent folks. And, he had shown us NO RESPECT.
Respect which Our Washington Nationals showed none of to Detroit's Closer Todd Jones this evening. Having inherited a 9-5 lead heading to the bottom of this terrific 9th inning--Jones could not get ANYONE OUT, for quite some time. Ryan Langerhans pinch hit for ever shaky Nook Logan and greeted Todd with a liner down the right field line for a leadoff double. Robert Fick was next. Fick, a late inning double switch replacement when the game was seemingly out of hand--followed with an opposite field liner to left, moving Langerhans to third. And, when "The Guz" hammered a Todd Jones fastball into the right field corner--THE RACE WAS ON--Langerhans scored easily--Fick being waved on home by Third Base Coach Tim Tolman. The Crowd ROARING ITS APPROVAL!!. Our Number 15 was motoring and set his sites on 3rd base. Guzman, running hard, slid into third with a game changing two run triple--pulling Our Washington Nationals within two runs at 9-7. If you thought RFK Stadium was loud before--the noise level now--near deafening. Folks were going wild. Everyone sensing a FRANTIC WIN!
Todd Jones had stirred up an Hornet's Nest, with Felipe Lopez and Ryan Zimmerman adding those extra stings. Now Dimitri was up. There could not have been a player, coach or manager on either side that did not understand the irony of this situation. Young was released by Detroit last season due to well documented personal problems. A year in which The Tigers won The American League Championship and advanced to The World Series. These Tigers are a pretty good team.
Dimitri Young's baseball career was a distant afterthought over this past winter, until Our Washington Nationals came a calling. Now, Our Number 21 has turned around his life and career. Many feeling Dimitri Young deserving of the Comeback Player of The Year. With The Boisterous Throng living off every pitch now--Dimitri took ball one batting lefthand. Then proceeded to foul off three consecutive pitches. Each time you could hear the air coming collectively out of every single fan watching. Totally out of the blue, this game was tense--and it only got better.
On the 5th pitch of this At-Bat, Dimitri Young HAMMERED a grounder down the first base line--past Detroit's Sean Casey at first base. A sure game tying, possible game winning hit! Only to see the baseball go JUST FOUL!! The EVER LOUD sound of "OOOOHHH!!" from the disappointed gathered masses--amazing to hear. If you stayed to this ending--you were being treated to an ABSOLUTE THRILLER!!
Todd Jones had now thrown 18 pitches, given up three runs and had yet to record a single out. Until--he finally fooled Dimitri Young and got him to chase a high fastball for strike three and the first out of the bottom of the 9th. Dimitri returning to haunt his old team--not in the cards tonight. But, this game was far from over. Austin Kearns was next. The Crowd still on its feet. The Heads continuing to bobble along the third baseline. Our Number 25 has begun to hit in the clutch. And, as a veteran player, he has to know-- when you have a pitcher in trouble--you have to be patient.
So, what did Austin Kearns do? He swung at the very first pitch--looking to send the ball into rightfield.
Unfortunately, Austin hit the baseball right at Casey at first base. Sean turned and threw to Carlos Guillen gliding across second base for Detroit. It looked like a sure GAME ENDING Double Play. But, Carlos had trouble moving the baseball from his glove hand to his throwing hand--the delay, allowing just enough time for Kearns to safely arrive at first. Washington was STILL ALIVE. A Sense of RELIEF throughout the old ballyard. Our Washington Nationals had been lucky. Could that break, be the final advantage to win this ballgame. FLop representing the game tying run was now at 3rd base, with two outs. And, Jon Rauch was the scheduled hitter. No way the pitcher hits.
Making the right move, Our Manager Manny Acta called on his most reliable bench player--Ronnie Belliard. The One Man with the experience to get the that run home. Belliard walked confidently to the plate. "LETS GO NATS" ringing throughout RFK STADIUM. Hardly anyone sitting. How could you sit--this was just too exciting. And, despite Jones being in serious trouble all inning long--Tigers Manager Jim Leyland had no one else warming up. This Game was now Todd Jones' to Save or Lose. The loss a better proposition when Todd threw a first pitch ball one. And, when Our Number 10 worked a Full Count--this game had finally come to a head. Kearns would be running on the pitch--a single into the gap would win it. The Thundering Crowd whooping it up. The Rhythmic Clapping Loud. The Fanfare at an All-Time High for this evening.
With all eyes tuned to the excitement on the field, Jones was tuned to the signals of Pudge Rodriguez, his catcher. Belliard tuned to the game deciding moment at hand. The Time of Day tuned to 10:00PM--Exactly. On Jones' 26th and final pitch of this inning and game--Ronnie Belliard swung and grounded hard into the hole between 2nd and 3rd--those in the stands screaming that a game tying hit might have just been struck-- only to see Tigers Shortstop Carlos Guillen backhanded the ball and throw A STRONG TOSS TO FIRST BASE--caught by Casey--retiring the hard charging Belliard to END THIS GAME. Just like that--a glamorous come from deep behind victory was no longer. 9-8 Detroit, the final score. The Tigers celebration on the RFK Turf, like that of a team winning a playoff game. They well knew--they nearly lost in miraculous fashion.
Shades of sorrow throughout RFK STADIUM from Nationals Fans. To come so close, after coming back from so far, yet still lose, put a serious damper on one marvelous ending to tonight's affair. Down 9-1 after 5 innings, No One was expecting a finish like this. Baseball never ceases to amaze me. And, as The African Queen noted on our way out of RFK STADIUM Tonight--"There is no shame in that loss. They almost pulled off A MIRACLE".
A Near Miracle that would have been gone down in Nats Lore, and remembered fondly, for years to come.
Oh, that Obnoxious Tiger's Fan--he told all of us to "F-OFF" as he left Section 320 after the game. Very Classy-THAT JERK!!
Game Notes & Highlights:
Matt Chico found out what its like to face a Hitting Machine. The Detroit Tigers can scorch the baseball--hard. They pounded Matt all over the field tonight. Nothing cheap in any of their hits--except for one--which I will explain later. Our Number 47 couldn't make it out of the 5th, eventually being charged with 8 runs. Winston Abreu relieved him--and also got hammered--including giving up a MONSTER HOME RUN to Section 443 hit by Detroit's Marcus Thames. Thames' Homer Launched into the 6th row, near the leftfield foul line. A very impressive shot.
"That's not a good sign," I stated to The African Queen. In the top of the second inning with Magglio Ordonez of second with a double, Thames hit a soft liner to centerfield. Nook Logan immediately went back on the ball--yet the ball was heading a good 30 feet in front of him. Logan changed direction running in. FLop ran out. Austin Kearns ran over. NO ONE CALLED THE BALL. Thames safe with a cheap single. Come on GUYS!! Don't be afraid to catch the baseball. This is happening WAY TO OFTEN!!
This Miscue directly lead to a game changing moment--when with one out--Brandon Inge flied to Ryan Church in left. Ordonez tagged on Ryan's catch and took off for home. My Main Man!! unloaded a NICE THROW to Brian Schneider at the plate. Schneider caught the baseball just up the first base line and appeared to tag Magglio out at the plate. It was The Defensive Play of This Game. Yet, Home Plate Umpire Gerry Davis called Ordonez safe. The Crowd WENT NUTS!!! He sure looked out with the naked eye. We don't have the capability of seeing a replay. But, I just can't imagine Schneider missing that tag. Our Manager Manny Acta promptly came out of the dugout to argue the call--but to no avail.
Of course--if either Logan, Kearns or Lopez had caught Thames pop--this argument would have been moot.
Speaking of Logan, Nook is providing no offense right now. Tonight, he hit into a rally killing double play in the 2nd. And, killed another rally with a weak fielders choice with two runners on in the 6th. He is simply not doing the job. On the other side--Ryan Langerhans is hot with the bat right now. Manny, just stick Ryan in there and see what he can do for you everyday for a while. At least we have a fighting chance of getting some extra base hits with Number 4 at the plate. Something Logan can not do, at all.
"The Guz" had three hits tonight, not only his big triple in the 9th, but a single and double--scoring two runs, raising his average to .325. Guzman also made an inexplicable baserunning blunder in the 3rd after that double. With one out, FLop hit a routine grounder to Guillen at short. With the play in front of him, Cristian took off for third base. Carlos Guillen easily threw "The Guz" out. What were you thinking of? That mental mistake had alot of heads shaking back and forth.
Down 9-1 Washington got back into this game originally in the bottom of the sixth--thanks to their top of the order and a little luck. Guzman single, FLop triple (where Felipe would have been thrown out on the relay if Brandon Inge had not missed the baseball). An error by Guillen on a Zimmerman grounder, followed by a Young sharp grounder to center. Kearns walk and Church run scoring single to left (a beautiful opposite field swing) and Brian Schneider sacrifice fly--before Logan and Pinch Hitter Tony Batista killed the rally. 4 Runs scored in all. Detroit Starter Mike Maroth being knocked out of the game.
From the day he ever played his first Major League Game in 1988, Gary Sheffield has swung the bat harder than any player I have ever seen. Tonight, at age 39--Sheffield continued to show--he is a menace with the baseball bat. His power through the strike zone so swift--if he connects decently at all--the baseball is going to fly out of the park. Its hard to believe, with his coiling action swing, he doesn't mess up his back during each and every At-Bat.
Top Brass for Our Washington Nationals were all in attendance tonight, sitting behind The Nats 3rd Base Dugout. It seemed all The Principal Owners were there--including Managing Principal Owner Ted Lerner. Ted's son--Mark was kind enough to stop by and say hello as he exited the park tonight. Mark Lerner also thrilled by the near miracle ending. "How about that, we almost pulled it off," he stated excitedly.
"Yes, we almost did," I said, as we shook hands.
Tonight's InGame Photos--(AP) Haraz N. Ghanbari